John Hudson Earle on Otto Kramer Trechmann

This is a sample of John Hudson Earle's diaries, throwing light on the activities of Otto Trechmann & Sons Warren plant at Hartlepool. Earle's and Trechmann's had a certain amount in common: they were both independent companies operating in the North, were experimenting with rotary kilns, and were under pressure to join in the amalgamation of firms that eventually became BPCM, the alternative being a collaborating federation of independent firms such as operated in Germany. Earle recorded a long and rambling chat with Otto Kramer Trechmann on 24/10/1907 as follows:

He says he turns out 1,000 tons a week at Hartlepool, 1,000 tons a week (at) Trechmann, Weekes & Co., in London; that he uses very little coke.

Rotaries and Dietzsch kilns were fired with coal, unlike chamber kilns and Schneider kilns

The Combine sued him for £15,000 & settled it for £500, after the law case had hung on for four years, without being brought to a point. They offered him £130,000 for his works, turning out 800 tons a week, & he was to have a certain portion in cash. When they came to it they wouldn’t give him the portion in cash, only a small pittance, & he declined to hand his works over.

Trechmann's was one of three firms that initially joined in the APCM project, but dropped out when O'Hagan reneged on his promised terms. I. C. Johnson and the West Kent company told similar stories.

He says he quoted Best for the Bolton job 24/9. Says there was an Inland Association 10 years ago, practically only the Newcastle & West Hartlepool Makers, but they found that rebates were given & so on, at the end of the year.

He says they had decided not to buy the Purfleet quarry, which has already cost them £35,000, that they can’t put the chalk in under 11d free on board; will have about 430/440 thousand tons to spare this year. They have power to erect a factory there; 4d a ton royalty, but they decided to have nothing more to do with the quarry, as the solicitor, Mr Whitehead, was so annoying. However, the brother, Charles Trechmann was travelling in the train to Hartlepool & came across Mr Herbert Anderson, & he mentioned to him he was going to see Casebourne’s on an important matter. Mr Charles Trechmann noticed amongst his papers “re Purfleet quarry”. When he got home, he wired to close the negotiation at once, in their favour.

Mr Trechmann says that Martin Earle’s have never written a penny depreciation off beyond some £500; that they are very dissatisfied at the works; not unlikely to call old Mr Martin in again.

This is a dig at the ludicrous Vavasour Earle, who had put in a lot of rotary kilns.

He says that the Associated Makers have written no depreciation off & that their preference dividend has really been paid by borrowing the money, that all their capital outlay is borrowed, & that unless prices go up they can’t go on.

APCM only dug itself out of this hole when it was re-financed in 1912.

Says that Davis of the Saxon & Norman has got a fine plant, well designed, that his sole object is to keep the concern running, regardless of profit.

The Norman plant was supplied by Fellner & Ziegler and Trechmann probably had a view of it as a prospective customer: it started in 1904. Davis was suspected of selling below cost.

He also says that Casebournes owe the bank £12,000 & that they won’t be able to go on, that the concrete raft on which the Works is built, instead of being in one piece, is all cracking. Somebody told him they thought they would have to start & pile, & move the whole works on to fresh laid ground.

They didn’t. The old kilns were still in operation at Billingham in the late 1920s in their original building. There was no love lost between Trechmann and his neighbours at Casebourne's.

His idea of any Association is that like the German it works in good times, it won’t work in bad times, & he is strongly of opinion that he will be too much hampered by any Association to join it. He would not have a free hand, but if they like to fight him they will get tired before he does, as he has reserves of £80,000. He feels sure the Associated shareholders would not allow them to waste their money in cutting the prices down.

APCM was at this time dumping cement in the North East in order to persuade local manufacturers to co-operate or to drive them out of business.

He only has one traveller. The one he got to succeed Mr Glendinnan, for 3 years, was no good. He came from the South.

This to be said with the characteristic Hull “just trod in something nasty” curl of the lip.

Says he has not got a single Corporation contract of late years, that he keeps very busy.

Best of Edinburgh is an awkward man to do business with.

He finds our prices are all right & don’t interfere with him. The only way he ever comes in contact with us is where “ours” is specified by an Architect. Says he has never asked an Architect in his life to specify his cement.

Says Casebourne & Robson cut prices.

Says that Johnson’s works are very ramshackle. He saw round them a year ago, & that Charlton & Watson are the main men in Johnsons.

He thinks the Building trade is very bad.

Says he has never given a commission to an Architect or Engineer.

Supplied 50,000 tons to the Thirlmere contract; never had a complaint.

He says that Vavasour Earle he thinks is simply playing with exploiting the patent, and in Germany, where he has just come back from, Dyckerhoff told him to take no notice of Slag cement; they are only small works, & there is nothing to fear from Collos Slag cement, also that Prüssing of Hemmoor told him the same as Dyckerhoff.

Various people, including Trechmann and Casebourne, were at this time experimenting – unsuccessfully – with Colloseus activated slag cements.

Says Saxon spend £2,500 a year in advertising.

Mr Trechmann says that he doesn’t reckon Casebournes turn out more than 800 (tons) a week, that his Fellner & Ziegler kilns, of which he has 4, won’t turn out more than 180 to 200 each.

This implies that Trechmann has at least one such kiln, and that he only gets 180-200 tons per week – i.e. 27 t/d – out of it. Chainless kilns of that size should make 51 t/d, and Casebourne’s made 45 t/d with theirs.

He, Mr Trechmann, has 2 Rotary kilns; the rest are Dietch (sic) kilns that he works.

Mr Trechmann says that O’Hagan is one of the slyest financiers in London.

He says he thinks Nelsons give a commission to Architects. Trechmann says he can sell no cement in Manchester now & he used to do a lot. Monson & Mason, Contractors, are A1 firm. Hilton Andersons were always in trouble for a large waterworks contract which the Contractor passed Trechmann for & they called Trechmann back to help them out of their difficulty as they were always having to re-do the work. Result was Contractor paid them 2/6 more a ton for another 50,000 tons. When using Hilton Andersons they had frequently to cut the concrete out. He says the rate from Halling to Manchester I think is 2/- canal dues & 5/- freight.

This is the Manchester waterworks again – note that it is supplied by Weekes and not Warren.

He says that he has worked his rotaries now for years & yet the cement is too quick setting. He can’t get his initial right, that it is quite unsafe to send away unless it is mixed with the other clinker, owing to its irregular quality.